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Smith Thompson

In office
January 1, 1819 – August 31, 1823
Preceded by Benjamin Crowninshield
Succeeded by Samuel L. Southard

In office
September 1, 1823 – December 18, 1843
Preceded by Henry Brockholst Livingston
Succeeded by Samuel Nelson

Born January 17, 1768(1768-01-17)
New York City
Died December 18, 1843 (aged 75)
Political party Democratic-Republican,
National Republican
Alma mater College of New Jersey
Profession Lawyer, Politician, Judge
Religion Presbyterian

Smith Thompson (January 17, 1768 – December 18, 1843) was a United States Secretary of the Navy from 1818 to 1823, and a United States Supreme Court Associate Justice from 1823 until his death in 1843.

Thompson was born in Amenia, New York.[1] He graduated from Princeton University (then known as the College of New Jersey) in 1788, taught for a short period thereafter, then studied law under James Kent and subsequently set up a law practice.[2] He practiced in Troy, New York from 1792 to 1793, and in Poughkeepsie, New York from 1793 to 1802.[1] He was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1800, and attended the New York Constitutional Convention of 1801.[1] He was appointed to the New York State Supreme Court in 1802, serving as Associate Justice from 1802 to 1814, and Chief Justice from 1814 to 1818.[1]

He was a founding vice president of the American Bible Society and provided a copy to every officer and enlisted man in the Navy.

He was appointed Secretary of the Navy by President James Monroe, and campaigned for the Democratic-Republican presidential nomination in 1824. When Andrew Jackson won the nomination, Thompson only reluctantly accepted his appointment to the United States Supreme Court.[3] He did not give up his political ambitions there, and took the — now considered unusual, but then quite common — step of running for political office from the bench; however, his 1828 bid for Governor of New York was unsuccessful, unlike the example of Chief Justice John Jay, who had been elected governor in 1795. Thereafter he mostly exited political life, and on the court was a staunch opponent of Chief Justice John Marshall.[4]

USS Smith Thompson (DD-212) was named for him.


  1. ^ a b c d Smith Thompson at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  2. ^ Tomlins, Christopher, ed. (2005). The United States Supreme Court: The Pursuit of Justice (Houghton Mifflin), p. 522. ISBN 0618329692.
  3. ^ Smith, Jean Edward (1998). John Marshall: Definer of a Nation (Macmillan), p. 470.
  4. ^ Tomlins (2005), p. 522.

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Benjamin W. Crowninshield
United States Secretary of the Navy
January 1, 1819 – August 31, 1823
Succeeded by
Samuel L. Southard
Legal offices
Preceded by
Henry Brockholst Livingston
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
September 1, 1823 – December 18, 1843
Succeeded by
Samuel Nelson


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